Alternator failure today.

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Rgbeard, Jan 5, 2019.

  1. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ and Ensenada, Mexico
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    rgbeard
    So, today was a great day. One of those rare one-in-a-million days that we actually have IMC conditions across the Imperial Valley. I was flying my wife, dogs and I from Phoenix to San Diego.

    For those that don't know the Imperial Valley, it's the Arizona/California desert, it's not known for any capacity to hold atmospheric moisture, and is generally severe-clear.

    Just about the time we crossed BZA the alternator quit. The idiot light illuminated, and the ammeter went to zero. We were at 8000 in IMC. I generally fly this flight a little higher but the headwinds were a factor, and the freezing level worked in tandem to keep us lower.

    ATC was solid professional. I advised my condition, and continued to troubleshoot/validate my issue while still flying the plane. All non-essential electrical devices were turned off to keep the battery draw as low as possible.

    Since going NORDO is a risk, we worked a clearance all the way to the IAF for the VOR-A approach to my intended airport, Brown Field (SDM). I use FlyQ for my charts/plates, and the iPad derives GPS data from my battery-operated hockey-puck GPS. I was advised that weather would improve suddenly once we crossed the mountains into the San Diego area, and could possibly take a visual. I said I'd rather have the VOR-A clearance, as it keeps me a little more procedural, and ATC agreed.

    As L.A. Center handed me to SoCal (San Diego), the controller said: "I know you're at risk for going NORDO. If this happens, just know I'm watching you closely and I'll keep everyone out of your way while you fly the approach." Then later he said, "I've called ahead to Brown, and you're already cleared to land Rwy 26R." The VOR-A approach was run in weather that had, as was told to me, improved to VFR conditions.

    The battery held for the remaining hour of flight time, so the alternator failure was really a non-event. Just enough of a thing to make the butt pucker a little. Being IMC at the time added to the fun.

    I don't know if anyone from Yuma, L.A., or SoCal ATC reads these threads or not, but if you do, I want to thank you and the team for your professionalism and your service!

    I also want to thank every flight instructor that I've had since ever, for making this event one that was handled with confidence, knowledge and a cautious respect for the situation.

    SO, for the Monday-morning quarterbacks: No, I didn't choose another airport. I continued onward. ATC was good with it, we coordinated many steps ahead so my NORDO risk would be close to a non-event. I was happy to make it all the way to SDM. It's my second-home-airport, and has full service facilities, and also had my truck parked and waiting for us. It sure beat landing in Yuma, being hundreds of miles from home, on a weekend.
     
  2. EppyGA

    EppyGA Touchdown! Greaser!

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2009
    Messages:
    10,433
    Location:
    Hoschton, GA
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Let's Fly
    Sounds like a great job, all's well that ends well.
     
  3. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2012
    Messages:
    3,637
    Location:
    Hopewell Jct, NY
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Shepherd
    Good things happen to those who know what the heck they are doing.
    Well done, and keep on doing it right.
     
    Eric Stoltz likes this.
  4. Clip4

    Clip4 En-Route

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2013
    Messages:
    3,727
    Location:
    A Rubber Room
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Cli4ord
    Suspect the regulator went south. Did you follow the checklist procedure?
     
  5. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ and Ensenada, Mexico
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    rgbeard
    Yes, and I'm proud to say that I did the required steps, and then followed with the checklist to make sure I did everything without overlooking something.

    The checklist was, indeed, a CHECK list, instead of a DO list.

    It's really a pretty simple routine. Two steps - check circuit breaker for the alternator field, and use the split-switch of the master switch to recycle the field.

    Many years ago, I had a non-emergency, but still urgent situation in a rented Arrow. That time, I DID NOT use the checklist, and in fact overlooked the very item causing my troubles. I swore from that, that I'd never let the urgency of the situation lead me to ignore the checklists again.
     
    Eric Stoltz likes this.
  6. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2009
    Messages:
    255
    Location:
    Cloverdale, CA
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gary
    Were you flying the Cirrus (with dual alternators and batteries)?
     
  7. Lantraxco

    Lantraxco Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2018
    Messages:
    156
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    OldNewbie
    Well done bringing her home.
    Pretty impressive job from ATC, especially when you consider the controllers probably won't get paid for a few more weeks. They're there because they're needed and the job has to get done, no matter what silly buggers congress is playing at. We do appreciate it.
     
    SoCal RV Flyer likes this.
  8. Salty

    Salty En-Route PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Messages:
    3,217
    Location:
    FL
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Salty
    What equipment would you have lost completely if the battery died? Just com radio?
     
  9. Clip4

    Clip4 En-Route

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2013
    Messages:
    3,727
    Location:
    A Rubber Room
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Cli4ord
    In a steam gauge aircraft at least the turn coordinator.
     
  10. Salty

    Salty En-Route PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Messages:
    3,217
    Location:
    FL
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Salty
    I’m asking about his specific aircraft.
     
  11. jspilot

    jspilot Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2011
    Messages:
    1,143
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    jspilot
    I had a battery/alternator failure a little over a year ago but my battery went dead and I lost radios,flaps, fuel gauges and lights in a 172. The OP handled the situation similar to me in that he kept calm and stuck to his plan without second guessing himself. That’s a great job in a stressful situation! You did have it a bit easier than I did though as you still had a lot of items working on the plane!

    Great job and keep flying safely!
     
  12. Challenged

    Challenged Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2011
    Messages:
    1,600
    Location:
    Louisiana
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Challenged
  13. AKBill

    AKBill Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2014
    Messages:
    2,017
    Location:
    Juneau, AK
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    AKBill
  14. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2015
    Messages:
    12,287
    Location:
    My own special place.
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Old dog w/o new tricks
    Well since you asked ...


    Oh crap it’s only Sunday morning.


    Nevermind.


    I’ll wait until tomorrow to say “well done”.
     
    ircphoenix likes this.
  15. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,220
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Half Fast
    Great job!

    Have you considered keeping a hand-held radio in your flight bag as a backup? It won’t have great transmit range but can help when close to your destination, and it will have decent reception range.
     
    benyflyguy likes this.
  16. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ and Ensenada, Mexico
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    rgbeard
    In addition to the radios, it would include the turn coordinator, landing gear hydraulic pump, landing gear indicator lights.
    All of these things I am okay with losing.
    Of course this was daytime so we add exterior lights and interior lights to the list for night considerations.

    I'm not convinced there's space under the cowling! Haha!!
    But seriously, you can only have so many redundancies in a GA aircraft. I'd sooner spend the money on standby vacuum, or a G5 conversion. The vacuum system has always struck me as the more fragile components of the infrastructure.

    I've never considered it before. And honestly, I'm not likely to. It falls in the category of something else to charge. However, I reserve the right to reflect on my experience and change my mind. Stay tuned.
     
  17. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2014
    Messages:
    5,672
    Location:
    Anchorage, AK
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    stewartb
    You IFR guys should know what your battery life will be when the alternator quits. I’m a VFR guy but I’ve had a few occasions to find out. The battery will power avionics for a long time. My old rotating beacon has a power hog. It’s long gone as a result. Like they say on TV.... the more you know.
     
  18. Landing Fees

    Landing Fees Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2018
    Messages:
    210
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Landing Fees
    Something I hope to never experience. We have gone all LED in the plane but the 530/430 are still a big draw. Certainly interested to know how long everything would last on our newer battery - oh and probably best to get the gear down early and pull the CB.
     
  19. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    Messages:
    5,118
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Dan Thomas
    I suspect the brushes wore out. They do that, which is why 500-hour brush inspections are recommended by manufacturers. An alternator in an airplane is running at close to its redline RPM all the time, unlike the alternator in your car that seems to run forever. It's brushes wear out a lot faster.
     
    mondtster likes this.
  20. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2015
    Messages:
    5,602
    Location:
    Vail, Arizona
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Timbeck2
    I had that happen to me on a flight from Tucson to Rockport Texas. Didn't know I lost the alternator until after I landed at a refueling stop. Had to charge the battery and fly it with everything turned off to Midland to get fixed. With just an ammeter in the plane there was no indication that anything was wrong until I announced to land and the radio sounded weird. Since then I've installed a volt/amp gauge with a warning light, new alternator and new voltage regulator.
     
    benyflyguy likes this.
  21. dtuuri

    dtuuri En-Route

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2011
    Messages:
    3,115
    Location:
    Madison, OH
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    dtuuri
  22. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

    Joined:
    May 8, 2015
    Messages:
    5,708
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Luvflyin
    Good job. Not so much Monday Morning Quarterbacking, just some questions and thoughts on the subject. Did you check the battery after landing to see it's state? That info could come in handy if this happens again. Did ATC ever tell you to acknowledge a transmission from them with just a couple clicks of the Mic or an Ident? If the Weather reports on the other side of the mountains in the San Diego area were not VFR and you would likely be in the goo all the way, would it have changed your decisions?
     
  23. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2017
    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ and Ensenada, Mexico
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    rgbeard
    Battery-check? Nope. Tied her down, and started writing an email to the mechanic at Brown while my wife drove us home.

    Click or Ident? Nope. We kept radio comm as normal.

    Thick Soup? Possible. I knew from my prior wx briefing that KSDM was forecast to be well, well above minimums for the VOR-A, and the conversation with ATC after my situation developed indicated to me that it was even better than forecast. A diversion to Yuma on a Saturday might have looked better to me than it did at the time.
     
  24. asicer

    asicer En-Route

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2015
    Messages:
    3,333
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    asicer
    I'm not so sure about this. My car engine runs between 800RPM and 7000RPM but spends most of its time around 2700RPM. The airplane engine runs between 800RPM and 2700RPM but spends most of its time around 2450RPM.

    But even then, the alternator runs at whatever speed the engineer decided as far as pulley ratios. Are you sure they decide on redline?
     
    3393RP likes this.
  25. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2014
    Messages:
    6,196
    Location:
    Fort Worth
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Pasta Man
    @Rgbeard - Thanks for the reminder that a standby alternator is on my list for 2019.

    I have backup batteries for my EFIS, ADI, and 696. Since I have no mags, the current emergency procedure is take them off ship power, power off the 430 and Auto Pilot, then continue with only SL30, transponder, and ignition using the plane's battery. Approximately 1hr before it turns into a glider.

    I think the standby ALT is worth a grand as I move into IFR flying. Won't change the procedure, but if I'm on standby alternator with the reduced loads I have a much better range. Could even leave the 430 powered up, but only testing will prove that out.
     
  26. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    30,674
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Tom-D
    GOOD JOB,, pat self on back. :)
     
  27. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2014
    Messages:
    6,069
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Kritchlow
    Boy I hope so.... would be hard to do a dead battery NORDO VOR approach.
     
  28. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,220
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Half Fast

    Don’t get a rechargeable. You want the radio to use batteries that can be replaced easily and found in any convenience store.

    I have a simple Yaesu that uses AAs. I pop in a fresh set every 6 months if the radio hasn’t been used and I have another fresh set of spare batteries in my bag. Also a headset adapter.

    Can’t think of any good reason not to have it.
     
    benyflyguy likes this.
  29. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2008
    Messages:
    13,034
    Location:
    mass fla
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    ron keating
    Good job.
     
  30. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    Messages:
    5,118
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Dan Thomas
    Look sometime at the difference in pulley ratios on your car and on a Lycoming. Big, big difference. If the airplane's alternator had the car's drive ratio you'd never get max performance out of the alternator, and at lower RPM you might be discharging the battery. Think night approaches there. Lots of lights at work, low engine power.
     
  31. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy Cleared for Takeoff

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2018
    Messages:
    1,324
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    benyflyguy
    I got one right after that 152 went down with radio failure at night and couldn’t turn runway lights on. Killed an ATP and his son.
    Don’t take a loop without it. And yes to reg battery one. Rechargeable will let you down.
     
  32. Ronnie Godfrey

    Ronnie Godfrey Pre-Flight

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    95
    Location:
    Longview, TX
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Ronnie Godfrey
    Good job managing the situation! I’ve had some electrical trouble in VFR before and even that wasn’t my favorite experience. Good work man.
     
  33. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2016
    Messages:
    2,229
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    SoCal RV Flyer
    Either one will let you down if you don't replace batteries or recharge. Convenience stores aren't all that convenient when you're in the soup at 9000'. :eek:
     
  34. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,220
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Half Fast

    And that’s why I carry a spare set of batteries.
     
  35. sonopoa

    sonopoa Pre-Flight

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2018
    Messages:
    43
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    sonopoa
    You were lucky, that is not typical. You would have been advised to seek VMC conditions asap.
     
  36. AKBill

    AKBill Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2014
    Messages:
    2,017
    Location:
    Juneau, AK
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    AKBill
    I installed a dedicated antenna in the Sport for just that reason. I have had com issues in the past not fun going into class D without a com. I had a transponder let all the smoke out. Filled the cockpit with smoke. Shut down electrical system, NORDO in again class D.
     
  37. asicer

    asicer En-Route

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2015
    Messages:
    3,333
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    asicer
    I guess it makes sense, but a lot less so since LED lighting started taking over.
     
  38. -KLB-

    -KLB- Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2018
    Messages:
    178
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    -KLB-
    I haven't really looked at the specs on airband HTs, but other HT that I have with nearby frequency coverage will only do their higher power output levels on the rechargeable packs. I think one of them will do 5W or 0.5W on the rechargeable only, and 0.1W, and 0.01W on either AA or rechargeable.

    It might be a reason to keep the rechargeable battery charged, and have the second battery back ready to go with recent AA batteries.
     
  39. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,220
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Half Fast

    My amateur band HT is like that, but my air band HT is full power on the AAs. Both are Yaesu, btw.
     
  40. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    Messages:
    5,118
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Dan Thomas
    Yes, with LEDs and modern digital radios the amperage has gone down considerably, but the pulley ratios were designed in a day when none of that stuff was available.

    Glass panels use a lot more current than the old steam panel with a center stack did. We still need big, capable alternators.

    The better answer would be a brushless alternator. Heavy trucks have used them for decades, but like almost anything else in aviation, it takes decades to trickle down to us. Even the Plane Power alternator is just a repurposed auto alternator and uses brushes.